Students and staff members discussed on Thursday at the Von KleinSmid Center USC’s Master Plan and its potential community impact.
The potential for job creation as part of the Master Plan’s initiatives for development struck interest with David Galaviz, executive director of local government relations for USC.
“[USC] will make sure that there is a local hiring component, so that the residents have access to these jobs,” Galaviz said.
Community impact was a theme of the night, as the potential for affordable retail stores as well as easing housing concerns in the areas surrounding USC were discussed.
“We are creating 5,200 beds, meaning we could ease some of the housing pressure in the community,” Galaviz said.
Galaviz also noted that the increase in housing as outlined by the Master Plan could put some downward pressure on rents, thus making neighborhood housing more affordable.
Karina Casillas, a senior majoring in public policy, management and planning and American studies, said USC is only showing the “sunny side” of the development.
“Students want more affordable housing options, not necessarily new ones,” Casillas said.
Max Hoiland, a senior majoring in critical studies, is also concerned about a possible rise in housing prices as a result of the Master Plan.
“I live about a mile off campus with a bunch of students,” Hoiland said. “This plan would probably increase rent in the area since USC hasn’t made any specific commitment to affordable housing, and private landlords would have the ability to raise their prices too.”
The possibility that a higher-end retailer would replace Superior Grocers also worried Casillas.
“Everything found in those [higher-end] stores is at a higher price, which means the community won’t be able to afford it, and they will have to shop in a different neighborhood,” Casillas said.
Galaviz tried to dispel commonly held fears by stressing that over the last four to five years, the university has sponsored at least 200 community meetings through either an advisory council or door-to-door outreach in order to give community members a chance to voice their opinions.
Community members were also able to have their voices heard during the two open houses organized by the City Planning Department, which more than 350 people attended, 300 of whom supported the plan.
Casillas, however, feels that the student body has not been afforded the opportunity to fully understand and discuss what the Master Plan entails. She plans to work with the United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement, and will conduct an open forum regarding the development plans.
“This event is not about being ‘for’ or ‘against’ the Master Plan but merely a call for equal consideration,” Casillas said.
Joshua Sena, a junior majoring in sociology, said including everyone in the discussion about the Master Plan encourages its success.
“The best course of action would be a collaboration between students, the community and USC,” Sena said. “Everyone affected should have an input as to what should be done.”
Burke Gibson contributed to this report.